Working with professionals is a whole different ballgame from school. I know that sounds kind of obvious, but it's worth stating. Take scheduling, for example. At school it's easy: you are here to do theatre, you do it all the time. But the company here has a dozen different projects going on at once--this one needs to leave early for a matinee, that one is flying off to Finland for a couple days. So far I've been doing a lot of observing and learning where I fit in.
The play is called "The Representative" by Rolf Hochhuth. It was written, in German, in verse, in 1962, and it's original running length was seven hours. The version we're doing has been lovingly cut down to three, but there's still about twenty characters between actors. The play is about, basically, the Pope's refusal to condemn Hitler's actions during WWII. The main action of the play is about the priests trying to convince the Pope to do one thing or another, but there are also smaller stories woven in, such as a Jewish family being arrested in Rome, and a Jewish man hiding in Berlin. The play ends with a priest being sent to Auschwitz and having to question his faith as he is put to work in the crematorium. Some of the characters, such as the pope, cardinals, priests, SS officers, are based on real people, which has led to some interesting casting. For example, when the actor playing, basically, Dr. Mengel (the "Angel of Death" at Auschwitz) walked in the other day, I could tell instantly who he was playing because he has a very "character" face--chisled, with dark hair and deepset eyes. It wasn't until later that we learned he's actually Jewish--and he doubles as a priest later in the play.
The past couple days have been spent with the actors doing "table work" talking about their characters, events, etc. Not much for me to do. As I cheerfully pointed out during a break, for we Americans, WWII started in 1941. It's interesting to see the gamut of actors we have working on this project: one guy graduated from drama school a week ago, another introduced himself as "having worked with Richard Burton at the RSC." So the range of experience is vastly different. The designers as well are all extremely talented and organised. Even though the space is only about fifteen feet by twenty, the scenic designer had a 40 minute presentation about his set and the motivation behind his four arches, the lighting designer actually made a Power Point presentation to show his influences, and the costume designer is planning on building, among other things, five sets of SS uniforms, cardinal's robes, a papal robe, and a Swiss Guard uniform. It's been an eye-opening experience.
My main contribution has been setting up in the morning, making tea and calling people back from breaks. (now there's a peeve--I can never tell if a director is happy I'm keeping them on time or if they just want to have a few more minutes.) We start blocking on Friday, and from then on I'll be taking notes and preparing the SM book, but tomorrow is going to be more the same. So far so good, but I hope that I'm proving capable of handling a "professional production."